GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/3 August) – A decade ago, before boxing icon Manny Pacquiao became the big crossover star that he is today, he was just another Filipino fighter with some special talent.
Few ever thought he would reach boxing’s pinnacle of success – one who is both acclaimed as the pound-for-pound king of the sport as well as its top box office draw.
When he finally hit big time and started to collect boxing crowns at the expense of top boxers in every division he fought, he became a toast of Philippine politics.
For close to a decade, he was a darling of Malacañang and many politicians who cashed in on the goodwill of his popularity. He was frequently summoned to the inner chambers of the country’s seat of political power and was adopted as son by many city governments.
He was given direct lines to then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and was conferred titles very few now remember what they were and what they stood for. He rubbed elbows with the rich and powerful, which made his transition from a hunger-driven stowaway kid to being the country’s first billionaire athlete as phenomenal as his boxing success.
From one who was dismissed as simply too ambitious for running for public office in 2007, he is now one of the iconic figures of Philippine politics.
But his days as a favored political as well as sports figure of Malacañang may soon be over if it is still not.
On Monday, Manny Pacquiao the congressman stood side by side with former political foe Miguel Rene Dominguez, governor of Sarangani, in laying down the time capsule of a three-story modern hospital facility that will soon rise inside the capitol grounds.
It would have been Manny’s crowning glory as the construction of a provincial hospital was the centerpiece of his political campaign in 2010.
After he won the race for the lone congressional seat of Sarangani, he was welcomed by the new tenant of Malacañang, the country’s presidential palace, despite campaigning hard for the rival of the newly elected President Benigno Aquino III.
Pacquiao enthusiastically announced that he was able to secure a commitment from President Aquino for his pet provincial hospital project to the tune of P250 million.
A year after, however, Pacquiao never mentioned the said presidential promise during the groundbreaking ceremony.
Instead of the promised largesse from Malacañang, the hospital is now being built from a loan by the provincial government. Instead of a provincial hospital, it is now a medical center that will be built by LGU money and later managed by private medical practitioners and administrators. (http://asiancorrespondent.com/59224/sarangani-guv-takes-the-pacquiao-challenge/)
What happened along the way?
Pacquiao is now realizing that his past close association with Arroyo is now preventing him from being again a frequent visitor of Malacañang.
It did not help when he “tweeted” his support to the resigned Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez during the height of the impeachment vote at the House of Representatives. It was no secret that Aquino pushed hard for Gutierrez’s ouster and the current president never forgets.
It also did not help when Pacquiao came into the defense of now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when several members of Congress threatened to launch full blown investigation over the alleged past anomalies of the former president while she was in office.
Pacquiao is now realizing that his popularity, and even his money, will not necessarily buy him friendship from the current tenant of Malacañang whose platform of government and governance seem to center largely around corruption in the past.
While the wheels of fortune as far as the life of Pacquiao have changed, his presidential political clout may not be as strong as what he wants it to be or what others think it might be.
Politics can be fun. It can also be cruel most of the time. (Edwin G. Espejo writes for www.asiancorrespondent.com)